If you're looking for an A4 Avant station wagon as you troll the local Audi dealer this coming model year, you'll be out of luck.
Rather than stock the good-looking wagon, Audi's crossed over, reaching back into its bag of nameplates to come up with the Allroad. You might remember the last car to wear the same badge--an A6 mildly uprated with more ground clearance and the slightest nod to SUV cliches in its pronounced wheel wells and side sills.
This time, the Allroad's an A4 wagon in all but name, but it's been Outbacked. The exterior changes are pretty pronounced: the fenders swell more, the skid plates and side sills wear aluminum trim, and the grille gets vertical ribs. It's clearly an Avant, but this Allroad picks up the baton from the most expensive Subarus as if the brands were colluding behind the off-road scenes. Like the rest of the A4/A5 range, the Allroad's also been fluffed up inside, with some rearranged controls and with some aluminum trim applied to the dash--it's interchangeable with ash or walnut, if you prefer.
But it's the running gear that makes the Allroad the A4 that we'd buy before any other A4, save maybe for the supercharged S4, and even over Audi's own Q5. With the same 211-horsepower turbo four as the sedan, and the identical eight-speed automatic, with sport-shift mode and with or without shift paddles, the Allroad feels tauter, more ready to rumble over Colorado's mountain crests and the occasional dusty trail we explored during our first drive last week. It could be the Allroad's taller-profile tires that gave it better road manners--or the fact the test fleet omitted Drive Select, the choice-addled system that lets drivers pick from a smorgasboard of throttle, transmission, suspension, and steering settings.
We lucked out between hundred-degree days and dueling wildfires to the north and the south, while others weren't so fortunate--and we stayed on the right track, thanks to the Allroad's new navigation features, with perfectly rendered Google Earth and Google Street View maps delivered to the dash via Audi Connect, a hardwired 3G connection that's standard for six months with the nav, and available for $25-$30 a month after that.
The Allroad isn't for anyone who's fallen into the crossover-SUV trap, where a tall roofline and a bluff front end equals better interior space and safer transportation. The Allroad's likely to repeat the A4's Top Safety Pick status, and offers a rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a full stop from speeds under 19 mph. It's also roomy for front-seaters, more than acceptable for two adults in back, and more capacious than some compact luxury crossovers with its 27.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats.
Allroad prices start from about $40,000. Our ideal version, a base wagon with navigation, Audi Connect, paddle shifters and sport seats, runs about $45,000. A Q5 carries a lower base price, but it's difficult to find one without the Prestige package, which puts its pricetag over $50,000--making it more expensive, and a little less satisfying to drive.
We think you'll agree--once you get the whole story in our video road test from our Colorado test drive, and in our full review of the 2013 Audi Allroad.
Full disclosure: Audi sent out the press kit for its 2013 Allroad in the form of an Apple iPad 2. In the interests of openness, honesty, and clean living, we're putting the iPad to use as a monitor for our HGM GoPro Hero2, and possibly as a viewer for several hours of Tosh 2.0 for the times when we're penalized to coach class on Delta.